I grew up in a small town on top of the Palisades in New Jersey. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline of New York City. In the hot summer months I could hear the shrieks of people riding on the roller coaster at a nearby amusement park.
As a child, I always wanted to be an artist or a veterinarian. By the time I was eight years old I had cats, dogs, fish, snakes, and a pet monkey named Hercules that used to sit on my shoulder. Hercules stank and had fleas and my mom finally said “either you or that monkey has to go.” I spent many weekends in New York City browsing through museums and galleries. I liked to explore New York’s Greenwich Village with my green snakes entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.
My cousin was the great writer and optimist Norman Cousins. Our Thanksgiving dinners were like United Nations meetings. I was surrounded by people of many different cultures and since been drawn towards people from around the world.
At eighteen, I headed for film school in California. My aim: to eventually make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by western culture. I borrowed camera equipment and, given film, took off on the road to the southwest, documenting a rodeo team, a long distance trucker, and even the birth of a baby. Home was a beach house in Malibu furnished with the discarded furniture of movie stars. We had Flip Wilson’s lawn chairs and Barbra Streisand’s settee. I worked hard to help finance my studies. My jobs included running the projector at the local Malibu cinema, chauffeuring the residents of Beverly Hills, and fertilizing cactus with a silver spoon at a desert nursery.
I moved from California to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat. Stunned by its visual beauty, I concentrated on painting the old-style West Indian architecture and its people.
Wanting to publish a children’s picture book about Montserrat, I next moved to London to be closer to publishers. I approached thirty publishers before one finally accepted the idea and the book was released as The Little Island in the United Kingdom. Six months later, it was published in the United States as My Little Island.
My work has led me on many adventures in numerous countries. Traveling continues to be a major source of inspiration for my work as I render my impression of a country and its way of life in oil and gouache paintings. My greatest ambition is to instill pride and self-esteem in children about their unique heritage and their own ability to capture in it pictures and words.